There are many different types of fatigue in life. Each of these comes with its own set of symptoms and root causes. There is one thing that they all have in common: fatigue. If you are one of the 16+ million people who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or age related memory loss, you may come to experience “caregiver fatigue.” This can be very draining for you and not much fun for the rest of your family, either.
There are many different symptoms of caregiver fatigue. Much like when you get the flu, not every person experiences all the same symptoms, and many times those symptoms will differ in intensity per person. It is important to follow the very sound advice of the airlines: put your own oxygen mask on before assisting another person. Simply put, you need to take care of yourself, first and foremost, in order to take the best care of your charge.
Symptoms of Caregiver Fatigue
Anger that is either always there, or especially aimed towards the person you are caring for. In these cases, it usually pairs with denial of the person’s illness, or new symptoms which are developing as the Alzheimer’s disease or age related memory loss progresses.
Depression that impacts your daily life. Some of the symptoms of depression can be as simple as the feeling that you have lost hope, to feelings of deep sadness that seems to extend for days or weeks, or even suicidal feelings.
Please call 1-800-273-8255 if you need to speak to someone immediately about feelings of suicide.
Anxiety is a common issue with caregivers, and too much for too long can cause burnout all alone. Feeling anxious about care, about finances, about having a job or kids, the list goes on.
Exhaustion and sleeplessness can sap your energy and make living your life feel impossible. Too many sleepless nights can catch up with you quickly!
Irritability can make you moodier than usual, always on edge. This can create negative reactions in your family, social, and work life.
Lack of concentration can result from any of the other symptoms, but it can manifest itself in ways like forgetting appointments or missing important dates like anniversaries or birthdays.
Social withdrawal from activities and friends you used to enjoy. You just don’t seem to be doing the same social things you once did.
How to Treat Caregiver Fatigue
If you seem to have one or more of the symptoms above, it may be time to talk to your friends, family, or a caregiving facility about helping take some of the day to day caregiving activities off your hands for a week, or for good if possible. You can use resources like Lotsa Helping Hands or Caring Bridge to create a caregiver resource calendar. You can ask your friends and family to sign up for shifts, and tell them what days you need help for. Don’t forget to talk to out of town members of family who may be able to help by providing emotional or financial support.
In general, the best way to treat caregiver fatigue is to take some time for yourself. It’s most effective when done regularly, and when you do something you enjoy during your time off. Something as simple as getting a manicure or other pampering can help you feel better, whether it’s done out and about or at a friend’s home, or even just your own room with the door closed. Take time for you, treat yourself to something for yourself, and remember to breathe deep.
If you feel like you may want to hurt yourself, or that you need to speak to someone about the feelings you are encountering, there are several services available to help. Therapy, either in-person or online, can be very beneficial. Even getting together with a friend or family member to talk about your feelings can help lift some of the burden. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It is strength, instead, to overcome a storm of emotions and ask someone to let you take a few hours to yourself.
Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Living As A Caregiver For Alzheimer’s Disease
The sad reality of Alzheimer’s disease and many other forms of memory loss is that they will likely progress over time. This means that the patient you care for now will likely enter into new stages of memory loss, losing different pieces of personality and functionality as they go. This can cause even more anxiety, depression, and so on. Remember to keep yourself healthy, just as much as you try to do with your charge.
Schedule regular health checkups and appointments for yourself. Take your vitamins and eat a balanced diet, to give yourself the best chance at staying healthy and energetic. If you can, exercise. Try walking around the block, or even just around the house for a few laps. Stepping from side to side, remaining in the same general place, while you cook or wash dishes can help you stay fit without going to the gym. Look around for easy ways to incorporate your loved one into your exercise, and you can stay fitter together!
Above All: Take Some Personal Time
Remember that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or age related memory loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Take preventative measures against caregiver’s fatigue by taking time for yourself regularly, or by doing something for yourself that makes you feel good. Try to read a book, watch an episode of TV, or do whatever you want to for at least one hour a week. Visit a park, museum, coffee shop, or other place outside of your home for some time by yourself at least once a month.
You can also talk to a facility like Landmark Memory Care about their availability for day care services. For more information on Landmark Memory Care’s services, and availability, please contact us.